Actor Ross Virgo has starred in many productions including A Comic Book Ending, The Community and most recently The Comedy About A Bank Robbery. I was fortunate enough to talk to Ross about how he is adjusting to this strange new way of life in lockdown and his hopes for the future of the theatre industry.
First of all, how are you feeling about the whole situation?
Well… I don’t think that anyone thought that their April would be quite like this! It is a very strange time indeed. Of course, anyone working in the creative industries has has their world turned upside down. But fundamentally, people are getting ill and, unfortunately, worse. So each day, I am trying to remind myself of the bigger picture; we are doing this (distancing and the like) to help others.
How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the lockdown?
Lots of variety. My housemates and I decided to make a conscious effort to keep things fresh so that the days don’t all blue into one! I have been reading, mediating, doing yoga, a few online workshops, video calls, board games, cooking. A PS4 may have been delivered to the house the other day too…
What are you most looking forward to doing once lockdown is over?
Hugging. Hugging so many people. Ooh and getting a freshly pulled pint. AND – believe it or not – I actually miss the tube! I would give anything to have my face in a stranger’s armpit right now
Is there anything we, as theatre fans, can do to help the arts industry in these trying times?
Support, support, support. Watch the live streams. Interact with the content that people are putting out there. Even if it’s just a ‘like’ on a blog post that a theatre has shared. I think that a lot of theatres offered to issue credit (or similar) for cancelled shows too? If you can afford to do it, keep the booking, keep the money in the arts, in whatever form.
What is your favourite thing about the theatre industry as a whole?
The community. I don’t just mean the one ‘back of house’, I mean the way it brings people together, to tell stories. Something that I’m really excited for right now is the first night people are allowed to go to the theatre again. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. The atmosphere is going to be electric!
With the theatres closed and so much being moved online, do you think we are seeing a big change in how the industry works?
I think we might see an increase in self-tape requests – though things were heading in that direction anyway to be honest. Perhaps there will be more Zoom meetings – if you haven’t got time to travel into town then that’s another option we’ve all discovered! That said, I do think that because of the inherent collaborative nature of the arts, there will always be desire, want and need to work together in person. To create, to plan, to design, to workshop, to play. There’s play readings and such happening online at the moment which is great – it offers a much-welcomed creative outlet. But certainly from my experience, I really noticed the lack of eye contact, and how the natural rhythms of the text were at the mercy of the WiFi signal. I think we’ll always have a bias to in-person work where possible.
How have you been managing day to day life in quarantine? Do you have a routine, or do you just go with the flow?
Routine all the way. Or a rough plan at least. Even if it’s a plan to do very little! Personally, I’m someone who craves control and order – or as much as one can have with a career in the arts! I have been running and doing yoga most mornings and meditating every day. I have found that getting in touch with the body and the mind has really helped to keep me grounded throughout all this. We’ve been sharing cooking and cleaning duties in my house too, along with taking turns to brave Tesco! In between all that, you have space to jazz it up and keep it fresh – as I mentioned earlier.
Do you have any advice for people who are perhaps finding lockdown hard to manage?
Within a week of lockdown starting, a friend shared an article with me that compared the sudden upheaval and change to daily life to a form of grief. Grief is incredibly personal; as is everyone’s experience of these bizarre times. I think we all have to find out what works best for us – probably through a case of trial and error for most. But, for what it’s worth, I think taking time to contact with friends and family can only be a good thing.
This quote is from the article Ross mentions here:
‘We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.’
Do you think that it is important to talk about mental health in these challenging times?
Absolutely. It is important at the best of times, but it is especially important now. With more time and space with to connect with their thoughts, people are going to be experiencing an incredible range of emotions. The more we keep talking to each other about what we are experiencing and feeling, the more reminders we have that we are all going through this strange, unsettling experience together.
I would like to thank Ross for his time and his wonderful answers to this interview, as well as wish him all the very best for the future. Stay safe x